Rampart Dam
The Rampart Dam or Rampart Canyon Dam was a project proposed in 1954 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...

 the Yukon River
Yukon River
The Yukon River is a major watercourse of northwestern North America. The source of the river is located in British Columbia, Canada. The next portion lies in, and gives its name to Yukon Territory. The lower half of the river lies in the U.S. state of Alaska. The river is long and empties into...

 in Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 for hydroelectric power
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

. The project was planned for Rampart Canyon
Rampart Canyon
Rampart Canyon, Rampart Gorge, Lower Ramparts, and The Ramparts all are names for a high-banked canyon of the Yukon River located downstream of Rampart, Alaska and upstream of Tanana, Alaska. The canyon is located at an elevation of and was the considered site of a hydroelectric...

 (also known as Rampart Gorge) just 31 miles (49.9 km) southwest of the village of Rampart, Alaska
Rampart, Alaska
Rampart is a census-designated place in Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska, United States. The population was 45 at the 2000 census. In the 1950s, a large hydroelectric project called the Rampart Dam was considered for the Yukon River near the village. Had the project been completed, it would have...

 and about 105 miles (169 km) west-northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks is a home rule city in and the borough seat of the Fairbanks North Star Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska.Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska, and second largest in the state behind Anchorage...


The resulting dam would have created a lake roughly the size of Lake Erie
Lake Erie
Lake Erie is the fourth largest lake of the five Great Lakes in North America, and the tenth largest globally. It is the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest by volume of the Great Lakes and therefore also has the shortest average water residence time. It is bounded on the north by the...

, making it the largest man-made reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...

 in the world. The plan for the dam itself called for a concrete structure 530 feet (162 m) high with a top length of about 4700 foot. The proposed power facilities would have consistently generated between 3.5 and 5 gigawatts of electricity, based on the flow of the river as it differs between winter and summer.

Though supported by many politicians and businesses in Alaska, the project was canceled after objections were raised. Native Alaskans
Alaska Natives
Alaska Natives are the indigenous peoples of Alaska. They include: Aleut, Inuit, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Eyak, and a number of Northern Athabaskan cultures.-History:In 1912 the Alaska Native Brotherhood was founded...

 in the area protested the threatened loss of nine villages that would be flooded by the dam. Conservation groups abhorred the threatened flooding of the Yukon Flats
Yukon Flats
The Yukon Flats are a vast area of wetlands, forest, bog, and low-lying ground centered on the confluence of the Yukon River, Porcupine River, and Chandalar River in the central portion of the U.S. state of Alaska. The Yukon Flats are bordered in the north by the Brooks Range, in the south by the...

, a large area of wetlands that provides a critical breeding ground for millions of waterfowl
Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans....

. Fiscal conservatives
Fiscal conservatism
Fiscal conservatism is a political term used to describe a fiscal policy that advocates avoiding deficit spending. Fiscal conservatives often consider reduction of overall government spending and national debt as well as ensuring balanced budget of paramount importance...

 opposed the dam on the grounds of its large cost and limited benefit to Americans outside Alaska.

Because of these objections, United States Secretary of the Interior
United States Secretary of the Interior
The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

 Stewart Udall
Stewart Udall
Stewart Lee Udall was an American politician. After serving three terms as a congressman from Arizona, he served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B...

 formally opposed construction of the dam in 1967, and the project was shelved. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nevertheless completed its engineering study of the project in 1971, and the final report was released to the public in 1979. In 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 created the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Sanctuary, which formally protected the area from development and disallowed any similar project.


From its headwaters in the Coast Mountains
Coast Mountains
The Coast Mountains are a major mountain range, in the Pacific Coast Ranges, of western North America, extending from southwestern Yukon through the Alaska Panhandle and virtually all of the Coast of British Columbia. They are so-named because of their proximity to the sea coast, and are often...

, the Yukon River flows northwest, across the Yukon–Alaska border, until it intersects the Porcupine River
Porcupine River
The Porcupine River is a river that runs through Alaska and the Yukon. Having its source in the Ogilvie Mountains north of Dawson City, Yukon, it flows north, veers to the southwest, goes through the community of Old Crow, Yukon, flowing into the Yukon River at Fort Yukon, Alaska...

 at the settlement of Fort Yukon. At that point, the river turns west and southwest, flowing through the Yukon Flats, a low-lying wetland area containing thousands of ponds, streams, and other small bodies of water. As the river flows southwest, it intersects the Tanana
Tanana River
The Tanana River is a tributary of the Yukon River in the U.S. state of Alaska. According to linguist and anthropologist William Bright, the name is from the Koyukon tene no, tenene, literally "trail river"....

 and Koyukuk
Koyukuk River
The Koyukuk River is a principal tributary of the Yukon River, approximately 500 mi long, in northern Alaska in the United States.It drains an area north of the Yukon on the southern side of the Brooks Range...

 rivers before looping south, then north into Norton Sound
Norton Sound
Norton Sound is an inlet of the Bering Sea on the western coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, south of the Seward Peninsula. It is about 240 km long and 200 km wide. The Yukon River delta forms a portion of the south shore and water from the Yukon influences this body of water...

 in the Bering Sea
Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves....


During the river's flow through eastern Alaska, and before it intersects the Tanana River, the Yukon flows through the Central Plateau region of Alaska. During the millions of years of its flow, it has cut through ridges, forming canyons in some places near its juncture with the Tanana. One of the deepest of these canyons is known as Rampart Gorge, or Rampart Canyon. The gorge is located 31 miles (50 km) downstream of the village of Rampart, 36 miles (58 km) upstream of the village of Tanana, and immediately downstream from the mouth of Texas Creek. It is named for the nearby village of Rampart, Alaska
Rampart, Alaska
Rampart is a census-designated place in Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area, Alaska, United States. The population was 45 at the 2000 census. In the 1950s, a large hydroelectric project called the Rampart Dam was considered for the Yukon River near the village. Had the project been completed, it would have...

, a former gold-mining community now home to subsistence
Subsistence economy
A subsistence economy is an economy which refers simply to the gathering or amassment of objects of value; the increase in wealth; or the creation of wealth. Capital can be generally defined as assets invested with the expectation that their value will increase, usually because there is the...


At the proposed dam site, the river is 1300 feet (396 m) wide and has an elevation of 183 feet (56 m) above sea level. On the south bank, the land rises sharply to a ridge 1500 feet (457 m) high. North of the river, the bank rises to 1200 feet (366 m) before ascending gradually northwest to the Ray Mountains
Ray Mountains
The Ray Mountains is a mountain range in central Alaska named for the Ray River, itself named for U.S. Navy Captain Patrick Henry Ray, who established a meteorological station in Barrow, Alaska in 1881. The mountains are located within the Yukon-Tanana Uplands, an area of low mountain ranges that...

. Below the surface of the ground are patches of permafrost
In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water for two or more years. Ice is not always present, as may be in the case of nonporous bedrock, but it frequently occurs and it may be in amounts exceeding the potential hydraulic saturation of...

, and the area is seismically active. An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale struck the region in 1968, and a 5.0 earthquake hit the area in 2003. Geologically, igneous rock
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

 predominates, and quartz
Quartz is the second-most-abundant mineral in the Earth's continental crust, after feldspar. It is made up of a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall formula SiO2. There are many different varieties of quartz,...

 can be seen in places.

Hydrologically, the portion of the river upstream of the proposed dam drains about 200000 square miles (517,998 km²). On average, the Yukon flows at a rate of 118000 ft3/s through the canyon, with the fastest flow occurring in the later part of May and the first part of June, and the slowest flow occurring after the river has frozen over. This occurs no later than early November and lasts until mid April.


In 1944, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considered building a bridge across Rampart Gorge as part of a project to extend the Alaska Railroad
Alaska Railroad
The Alaska Railroad is a Class II railroad which extends from Seward and Whittier, in the south of the state of Alaska, in the United States, to Fairbanks , and beyond to Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright in the interior of that state...

 from Fairbanks to Nome
Nome, Alaska
Nome is a city in the Nome Census Area in the Unorganized Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska, located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. According to the 2010 Census, the city population was 3,598. Nome was incorporated on April 9, 1901, and was once the...

 to facilitate Lend-Lease
Lend-Lease was the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, Free France, and other Allied nations with materiel between 1941 and 1945. It was signed into law on March 11, 1941, a year and a half after the outbreak of war in Europe in...

 shipments to the Soviet Union during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The war ended before the project got beyond the planning stages, and the bridge idea was scrapped.

As early as 1948, U.S. Government officials eyed the Rampart site for its hydroelectric potential. A report by Joseph Morgan, chief of the Alaska Investigations Office for the United States Bureau of Reclamation
United States Bureau of Reclamation
The United States Bureau of Reclamation , and formerly the United States Reclamation Service , is an agency under the U.S...

 declared, "The demand for electric power supply in the [Alaska] Territory is expanding so rapidly that new installations of hydroelectric power plants are needed." Morgan's report listed 72 potential hydroelectric power sites in Alaska, but the Rampart site was one of the few to have a potential capacity of more than 200,000 kilowatts.

In his report, Morgan addresses the potential of the site:
Reconnaissance topography indicates several potential dam sites in Lower Ramparts, but the best site probably will be found about 31 miles (50 km) downstream from the village of Rampart. ... this site on the Yukon River would easily be one of the major potential hydroelectric power developments in North America.


The first serious consideration of a dam project was made in a 1954 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assessment of the resources of the Yukon and Kuskokwim River
Kuskokwim River
The Kuskokwim River or Kusko River is a river, long, in Southwest Alaska in the United States. It is the ninth largest river in the United States by average discharge volume at its mouth and seventeenth largest by basin drainage area.The river provides the principal drainage for an area of the...

 basin. Engineers considered Rampart Canyon to be a prime site for a hydroelectric dam. In April 1959, four months after President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 signed Alaska's declaration of statehood, junior U.S. Senator from Alaska Ernest Gruening
Ernest Gruening
Ernest Henry Gruening was an American journalist and Democrat who was the Governor of the Alaska Territory from 1939 until 1953, and a United States Senator from Alaska from 1959 until 1969.-Early life:...

 passed a resolution calling for the Corps of Engineers to begin an official study of the project, and $49,000 was allocated by the federal government for that purpose. Preliminary estimates said the project would cost $900 million (1959 dollars) and generate 4.7 million kilowatts of electricity. At the time, the largest hydroelectric project in Alaska was the Eklutna Dam
Eklutna River
The Eklutna River is a 22 mile long river located in the Southcentral region of the U.S. state of Alaska. A degraded anadromous stream of glacial origin, it originates at Eklutna Glacier and flows through Eklutna Lake and a canyon up to 350 feet deep, emptying into the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet...

, which produced just 32,000 kilowatts.

The project competed with the smaller-scale Susitna Hydroelectric Project
Susitna Hydroelectric Project
The Susitna Hydroelectric Project is a proposed hydroelectric power project along the Susitna River in southern Alaska...

 proposed by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation for south-central Alaska, but thanks to Gruening's support and that of other backers, the Rampart project took precedence. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1960 passed by the U.S. Congress in that year included a $2 million appropriation to conduct a full four-year feasibility study of the project, including its economic feasibility and the impact it would have on fish and wildlife. In March 1961, a team of engineers from the Corps' Alaska district began drilling operations at the site to determine bedrock depth and gather other data. In order to examine the economic feasibility of the dam, the Corps of Engineers created the Rampart Economic Advisory Board (REAB) in February 1961. The REAB hired David E. Lilienthal's Development and Resources Corporation in April to complete the study, and a team of Corps engineers and REAB members arrived in the state in June to study the Rampart project first-hand. At that time, Sen. Gruening estimated that the project would cost roughly $1.2 billion to complete, $8.2 billion in 2007 dollars.

As investigation and planning work continued, the Corps of Engineers reached an agreement with the Department of the Interior, the parent agency of the Bureau of Reclamation, in March 1962. The agreement stated the Corps would have responsibility for design and construction of the project, while the Interior Department would be responsible for running and maintaining the dam after completion. In the planning stages, the Interior Department also would be responsible for examining the economic feasibility of the project and its effect upon natural resources. This agreement negated much of the work of the REAB to that point, as the Interior Department promptly began its own three-year study of the dam's economic feasibility and environmental impact. The DRC report, though trumped by the Interior Department's new precedence in such matters, nevertheless released a report in April 1962, stating that the project was economically feasible and would attract new industries to Alaska. Meanwhile, the Corps of Engineers continued engineering studies.

The interim Corps of Engineers report was released in December 1963, and reported that building the dam was feasible from an engineering standpoint. President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 supported the project, and lobbied for an appropriation of $197,000 (1963 dollars) to continue study of the project. The needed money was included in a House appropriations bill, and studies continued. The initial report included some figures about the size of the project. The dam would be a concrete structure 530 feet (162 m) high and about 4700 foot long. It would raise the height of the Yukon River from 215 feet (66 m) above sea level to approximately 445 feet (136 m). The resulting reservoir would be 400 mile long, 80 mile wide, and have a surface area greater than that of Lake Erie. The power facilities for the project would produce a maximum of 5 gigawatts of electricity. In total, the proposed reservoir was anticipated to cover an area of 10700 square mile and have a capacity of 1300000000 acre.ft.

In April 1964, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its report on the project. Though only a part of the larger Department of the Interior study, the FWS report came down strongly opposed to the dam on the grounds that it would irrevocably destroy the Yukon Flats, a critical waterfowl breeding ground. In January 1965, the Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior which administers America's public lands, totaling approximately , or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. The BLM also manages of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state and private...

 set aside almost 9000000 acre of land for construction of the dam and reservoir. It was a typical process that had been done for other dam projects several times before, but the amount of land to be set aside generated several months of hearings before the decision.

Also in January 1965, the Department of the Interior completed its three-volume, 1,000-page study of the Rampart project's feasibility and impact. The Fish and Wildlife study released in 1964 was included, as were studies of the impact on the region's Alaska Native population. United States Secretary of the Interior
United States Secretary of the Interior
The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

 Stewart Udall
Stewart Udall
Stewart Lee Udall was an American politician. After serving three terms as a congressman from Arizona, he served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B...

 then created a task force to review the findings before he made a final decision. Throughout 1965 and 1966, opponents and proponents of the project funded studies of their own, aimed either at supporting or rejecting the arguments for the dam.

In June 1967, the Department of the Interior made its final recommendation and suggested that the dam not be built. Secretary Udall cited the fish and wildlife losses that would result, the availability of less-costly alternatives, and the fact that no recreational benefits would accrue.

The final design

Despite the Interior Department's rejection of the overall Rampart Dam project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continued its engineering feasibility study on the project. That plan was completed on June 25, 1971, and it included most of the previous federal documents pertaining to the project, including the electricity market studies published by the Department of the Interior in 1965, the Fish and Wildlife study of 1964, and other studies about the economic feasibility of the project. A detailed description of potential construction methods and the overall plan for the project were included, as were reports about the site's geography and hydrology. In total, the report encompassed two volumes including more than 480 pages. Because the construction season at the site is only five months, the Corps of Engineers projected that several decades would be needed to build the dam and associated structures.


Due to the lack of any land transportation route to the dam site, the first stage of construction would have involved the building of a temporary road from Eureka, about 30 miles (48 km) away, to the dam site. Consideration also was given to the extension of the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to the site. A period of about four years would have been required for preconstruction planning, including detailed construction surveying and finalizing the design of the dam, powerhouse
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

, and other structures. Engineers estimated that after the four years of final planning and surveying, three years would be needed to dig river diversion tunnels and construct the cofferdam
A cofferdam is a temporary enclosure built within, or in pairs across, a body of water and constructed to allow the enclosed area to be pumped out, creating a dry work environment for the major work to proceed...

s needed to clear the Yukon River streambed for construction. Housing and construction offices also would have been constructed for workers on the south bank of the site, and the cost for this effort was included in overall cost proposals for the project.


Site clearing and foundation work would have been scheduled to begin after completion of the diversion work in the seventh year of the project. The first pouring of concrete was scheduled for the project's eighth year, and work on the powerhouse would have begun in the 11th year. Owing to the large size of the reservoir, engineers estimated that the diversion tunnels would be closed in the 13th year, allowing construction to pace the filling of the new lake. The reservoir would have reached a pool elevation of 550 feet (168 m) in the 21st year, the dam would have been completed to elevation 660 feet (201 m) in the 25th year, and the reservoir would have been filled to the full 640 feet (195 m) level in the 31st year after the project's start. The installation of power generators was planned to follow as needed, with the last unit scheduled for installation by the 45th year of the project.

In total, the dam would have consisted of a concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 gravity structure with a structural height of 510 feet (155 m) and a hydraulic height
Hydraulic head
Hydraulic head or piezometric head is a specific measurement of water pressure above a geodetic datum. It is usually measured as a water surface elevation, expressed in units of length, at the entrance of a piezometer...

 of 430 feet (131 m). At the elevation of 660 feet (201 m), the dam would have stretched for 4700 foot from north to south. On the south bank would have been a concrete gravity spillway
A spillway is a structure used to provide the controlled release of flows from a dam or levee into a downstream area, typically being the river that was dammed. In the UK they may be known as overflow channels. Spillways release floods so that the water does not overtop and damage or even destroy...

 with a crest at elevation 600 feet (183 m) and a maximum flow of 603000 ft3/s at maximum pool elevation. The power facilities would have consisted of twenty-two 266,000 kilowatt units and two 10,000 kilowatt service units.

Materially, building the dam would have required 15000000 cubic yard of concrete aggregate, 2900000 cubic yard of rock fill, and another 1700000 cubic yard of various other types of fill. Engineers suggested that some of the material could be found at the site, but the remainder would have to be brought from outside sources.


At the projected pool elevation of 645 feet (197 m), the resulting reservoir would have had a total capacity of 1145000000 acre.ft. The full pool length would have been about 270 miles (435 km), and the maximum width would have been 80 miles (129 km). The resulting lake would have had approximately 3,600 miles (5,800 km) of shoreline and a total surface area of about 9844 square miles (25,496 km²). Because the Yukon also is a transportation route, transshipment facilities were planned for below and above the dam site and would have been connected by road and rail links. Because of the large size of the proposed reservoir and the need to allow some flow of the Yukon River downstream of the dam site for river navigation and fishing, engineers anticipated that filling the reservoir would take no fewer than 16 years to complete.

Anticipated costs

The Rampart Dam's large size had a correspondingly large price tag. The Corps of Engineers anticipated spending $618.4 million (1970 dollars) on construction of the physical dam alone, another $492 million for power-generating equipment, and $1.39 billion in total. That total included $15.59 million for relocating Alaskans from the area to be flooded, $56 million for fish and wildlife facilities to mitigate the anticipated losses, and $39.7 million for roads and bridges to access the area. After completion of the dam, the Corps of Engineers estimated that operation and maintenance of the project would cost $6.5 million annually, including $570,000 for replacement power equipment and $2 million for the maintenance of fish and wildlife facilities.

Weather effects

From the initial planning stages, proponents and opponents speculated that the large size of the reservoir created by the dam could affect the weather in Interior Alaska and the Yukon. Several studies were conducted in regards to these potential changes, and most of the reports hypothesized an effect similar to the weather that occurs around Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake
Great Slave Lake is the second-largest lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada , the deepest lake in North America at , and the ninth-largest lake in the world. It is long and wide. It covers an area of in the southern part of the territory. Its given volume ranges from to and up to ...

 and Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal is the world's oldest at 30 million years old and deepest lake with an average depth of 744.4 metres.Located in the south of the Russian region of Siberia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast, it is the most voluminous freshwater lake in the...

, both of which were of similar sizes and latitudes to the proposed reservoir. Forecasts predicted the lake would hold in heat longer during the autumn, thus keeping area temperatures slightly warmer than normal. In the spring, however, the area around the lake would have been prone to increased precipitation due to the phenomenon of lake-effect snow. In the summer, the long periods of daylight would have caused the land around the lake to become warmer than the lake itself, also creating the possibility of storms.


Support for the dam project came from a variety of sources, but supporters tended to use three primary arguments in favor of its construction: the electricity generated by the project would be cheap and plentiful, industries would be attracted to Alaska by the cheap electricity, and the dam's construction would have minimal impact on the environment and human populations.

During the campaign that preceded the 1960 U.S. Presidential election
United States presidential election, 1960
The United States presidential election of 1960 was the 44th American presidential election, held on November 8, 1960, for the term beginning January 20, 1961, and ending January 20, 1965. The incumbent president, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, was not eligible to run again. The Republican Party...

, both candidates—Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 and John F. Kennedy—made campaign stops in Alaska. Both men gave their support to the Rampart Dam project, with Kennedy saying, "I see the greatest dam in the free world at Rampart Canyon, producing twice the power of the Tennessee Valley Authority
Tennessee Valley Authority
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federally owned corporation in the United States created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly affected...

 to light homes and mills and cities and farms all over Alaska." Nixon, arriving three months after Kennedy, said, "As far as Rampart Canyon Dam is concerned, certainly you can expect progress, more progress, I believe, in our administration than his ...".

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leaders strongly supported the project in its initial phases. In 1960, Harold Moats of the Corps' Alaska district said, "Rampart Canyon, the big one, is Alaska's most valuable resource, and as it is developed, Alaska will take her rightful place in the family of states contributing richly to the economy of the nation and the welfare of the whole free world."

In early September 1963, a group of Alaska businesspeople, local government leaders, and industry representatives met at McKinley
McKinley Park, Alaska
McKinley Park is a census-designated place in Denali Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2007 census, the population of the CDP was 137.- Geography :McKinley Park is located at ....

 Park Lodge to organize lobbying efforts in favor of the dam. The resulting organization was called the Yukon Corporation for Power for America, later shortened to Yukon Power for America, Inc. The organization began with a $100,000 budget, which it used to produce "The Rampart Story", a color brochure distributed in Alaska and Washington, D.C. to promote the dam project.

Alaska senator Ernest Gruening remained a staunch backer of the project from its inception to its cancellation, and made it a major personal political priority. Gruening led a coalition of Alaska lawmakers that included most of the Alaska Legislature. In the 1962 Alaska state elections, every candidate elected to the state legislature was a supporter of the project. In the years that followed, the Alaska Legislature voted several times to allocate state funding for the project. Politicians at the city level also got into the action, as the city of Anchorage and the Fairbanks Public Utilities Board each voted to contribute $10,000 to a pro-Rampart organization. Among the group's members was Ted Stevens
Ted Stevens
Theodore Fulton "Ted" Stevens, Sr. was a United States Senator from Alaska, serving from December 24, 1968, until January 3, 2009, and thus the longest-serving Republican senator in history...

, who was appointed in 1968 as one of Alaska's representatives to the U.S. Senate.

Electrical argument

As planned, the dam would have produced roughly 34 terawatt hours annually, nearly 50 times the total energy use for the entire state of Alaska in 1960 (700 gigawatt hours). Gruening, in particular, believed that the dam would have an effect similar to that of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s, with cheap electricity providing the economic basis of the region. Dam proponents also suggested that the electricity might be transmitted to the rest of the United States, lowering utility prices in those states by increasing the amount of available power. Anthony Netboy, a salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 biologist employed by Yukon Power for America, claimed that one day, "a housewife in Phoenix or L.A. will fry her eggs at breakfast with electricity generated on the far-off Yukon."

Industrial argument

Supporters of the project suggested that the cheap electricity provided by the dam would be a strong enticement for electricity-intensive industries, such as aluminum smelting, to move to Alaska. They were encouraged by a 1962 economic feasibility study by the Development and Resources Corporation, which stated that the electricity generated would attract aluminum, magnesium and titanium industries to the region and help process locally produced minerals. The report also stated that the dam would attract a wood pulp mill on at least a temporary basis to process the hundreds of millions of board feet
Board foot
The board-foot is a specialized unit of measure for the volume of lumber in the United States and Canada. It is the volume of a one-foot length of a board one foot wide and one inch thick....

 of timber that would otherwise be lost as the dam's reservoir flooded. The authors of the DRC report were specific enough to predict that 19,746 jobs would be created by the dam's construction—not including jobs opened during the construction process. Both the 1962 study, and another report by University of Michigan researcher Michael Brewer in 1966, stated that tens of thousands of jobs would be created by the construction process alone, even if the cheap electricity generated by the dam failed to attract any additional industries to Alaska.

Impact argument

At the time Rampart Dam was being considered, Alaska as a whole, and Interior Alaska in particular, was sparsely settled. The 1960 United States Census recorded just 226,127 people as residents of Alaska, making it the least-populated state in the United States at that time. Interior Alaska contained about 28,000 residents, and promoters suggested that the dam's benefits would vastly outweigh the costs to the few residents who would be displaced. An unnamed Gruening staffer once said the area to be flooded by the dam was worthless, containing "not more than ten flush toilets. Search the whole world and it would be difficult to find an equivalent area with so little to be lost through flooding." In a 1963 letter responding to a Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated is an American sports media company owned by media conglomerate Time Warner. Its self titled magazine has over 3.5 million subscribers and is read by 23 million adults each week, including over 18 million men. It was the first magazine with circulation over one million to win the...

article about the dam, Gruening wrote,
As for the 2,000 Athabascan Indians, they could not but be better off than they are now. Their villages are flooded intermittently by the Yukon. Their habitations are miserable and their livelihood a bare subsistence supplemented by relief. Construction of the Rampart Dam will give them ample gainful employment, and in their new locations, chosen by them on the lake's borders, they will have better homes, better community facilities and a permanent income from now nonexistent activities, generated by the lake.

In the same letter, Gruening also promoted the possibility of the dam creating a thriving tourism industry in Interior Alaska, a hypothesis that was raised by other dam supporters as well. Greuning stated that the project would be similar to Lake Powell
Lake Powell
Lake Powell is a huge reservoir on the Colorado River, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona . It is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States behind Lake Mead, storing of water when full...

, in that it would create a range of recreational activities, including water skiing
Water skiing
thumb|right|A slalom skier making a turn on a slalom waterski.Waterskiing is a sport where an individual is pulled behind a boat or a cable ski installation on a body of water, skimming the surface.-History:...

 and picnic
In contemporary usage, a picnic can be defined simply as a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors , ideally taking place in a beautiful landscape such as a park, beside a lake or with an interesting view and possibly at a public event such as before an open air theatre performance,...



Opposition to the project was based on three separate objections to its construction: ecological, human, and financial. Conservation groups opposed the dam's construction because it would flood the Yukon Flats, a large wetland area that provides breeding ground for millions of waterfowl and habitat for game and fur-bearing animals. Alaska Native groups objected to the project's human cost—the need to relocate more than 1,500 people and 9 villages—and Native groups outside the reservoir area objected to the potential devastation of the Yukon River salmon population. The third objection to construction of the dam stemmed from its high cost and the belief that cheap electricity would not be enough to attract industry to Alaska.

Ecological objections

In late 1960, the Alaska Conservation Society
Alaska Conservation Society
The Alaska Conservation Society was the first grassroots environmental conservation group in the U.S. state of Alaska. It was founded in 1960 to coordinate environmental opposition to Project Chariot, a plan to dig a harbor in Alaska's North Slope with nuclear weapons, and to fight the proposed...

 became the first large conservation group to oppose construction of the dam. The organization believed the flooding of the Yukon Flats would cause critical damage to Alaska waterfowl and promoted the alternative Susitna Hydroelectric Project
Susitna Hydroelectric Project
The Susitna Hydroelectric Project is a proposed hydroelectric power project along the Susitna River in southern Alaska...

 to supply Alaska's electric needs. This was followed in early 1961 by an Alaska Sportsmen's Council resolution that criticized the Corps of Engineers for reducing its funding for studies of the impact of the project on fish and game stocks. In April of that year, Alaska Sportsman
Alaska magazine
Alaska is a periodical devoted to news and discussion of issues and features of and from Alaska. A great deal of its readership consists of persons outside of Alaska who are interested in the Alaskan way of life....

magazine took a formal stand against the project.

The California Fish and Game Commission was among the first non-Alaska conservation groups to oppose construction of the dam, saying in 1963 that it would inundate the Yukon Flats, an area of wetlands that is among North America's largest waterfowl breeding grounds. Following that objection, other groups began to organize during the 1963 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. Fifteen conservation groups pooled a total of $25,000 at the meeting to begin an independent scientific study of the project and start an opposition campaign.

In the spring of 1964, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a report on the impact of dam construction on the Flats. The report strongly opposed construction of the dam, saying in part, "Nowhere in the history of water development in North America have the fish and wildlife losses anticipated to result from a single project been so overwhelming." The report also pointed out the threat the dam would pose to the Yukon River's large salmon population, which swim upstream each year to spawn. Arthur Laing
Arthur Laing
Arthur Laing, PC was a Canadian politician. He was a Liberal Member of the Canadian House of Commons from Vancouver, British Columbia....

, Canada's minister of northern affairs and natural resources, also expressed alarm at the potential waterfowl losses and the threat the dam posed to Canada's portion of the Yukon River salmon population.

A May 1965 article in The Atlantic magazine by author Paul Brooks illustrated the growing protests of conservationists concerned about the project. After traveling the Yukon River, Brooks hypothesized that construction of the dam would be catastrophic from an ecological and human standpoint, would cost an exorbitant amount of money, and that the claims of attracting industry and tourism to Alaska were greatly exaggerated. In real terms, he estimated that construction of the dam would eliminate the habitat for 1.5 million ducks, 12,500 geese, 10,000 cranes, 270,000 salmon, 12,000 moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

, and seven percent of Alaska's fur-bearing animals. Similar articles appeared in magazines such as Field and Stream, which called the project "a catastrophe of major proportions", and the Audubon Society Magazine
National Audubon Society
The National Audubon Society is an American non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation. Incorporated in 1905, Audubon is one of the oldest of such organizations in the world and uses science, education and grassroots advocacy to advance its conservation mission...

, said the dam "would negate 30 years of endeavor in waterfowl preservation. Even sporting magazine Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated is an American sports media company owned by media conglomerate Time Warner. Its self titled magazine has over 3.5 million subscribers and is read by 23 million adults each week, including over 18 million men. It was the first magazine with circulation over one million to win the...

got into the act, asking if the cost of so many waterfowl would be worth building the dam.

Human objections

In planning the dam project, engineers anticipated that building the dam would flood nine Alaska Native villages, forcing the relocation of an estimated 1,500 people. Although some of the affected villagers felt the increased job opportunities would outweigh the forced move, most objected to the potential loss of the region's history. Among the affected villages was Fort Yukon
Fort Yukon, Alaska
As of the census of 2000, there were 595 people, 225 households, and 137 families residing in the city. The population density was 85.0 people per square mile . There were 317 housing units at an average density of 45.3 per square mile...

, which is the oldest English-speaking settlement in Alaska. In 1964, several groups of Native dam opponents in the Yukon Flats came together to form an organization called Gwitchya Gwitchin Ginkhye, which lobbied against the project. The Tundra Times, an Alaska newspaper devoted to Native issues, also came out strongly in opposition to the project, saying that all but one village from the head of the proposed reservoir to the mouth of the Yukon River were against the dam. Don Young
Don Young
Donald Edwin "Don" Young is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1973. He is a member of the Republican Party.Young is the 6th most senior U.S. Representative and the 2nd most senior Republican Representative, as well as the 2nd most senior Republican in Congress as a whole...

, Alaska's representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, was elected to the Alaska Legislature
Alaska Legislature
The Alaska Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is a bicameral institution, consisting of the lower Alaska House of Representatives, with 40 members, and the upper house Alaska Senate, with 20 members...

 in 1964 from Fort Yukon on a platform of opposition to Rampart Dam.

A survey of the archaeological and paleontological potential of the Yukon Flats, conducted in 1965, objected to the potential loss of the area. In part, it said, "... it may be said that relatively speaking, the archaeological potential of the Rampart Impoundment area is great; the practical difficulties of field work will have to be overcome in order to obviate the possible loss of what may be some of the most important prehistoric records in North America."

The Canadian government also strongly opposed the Rampart Dam project. According to the Treaty of Washington
Treaty of Washington (1871)
The Treaty of Washington was a treaty signed and ratified by Great Britain and the United States in 1871 that settled various disputes between the countries, in particular the Alabama Claims.-Background:...

, signed in 1871, Canada was allowed free navigation of the Yukon River. It was feared that construction of the dam would block navigation routes and violate the treaty.

Financial objections

Opposition to the dam project also arose in concern of the dam's cost. Several United States congressmen and fiscal conservatives
Fiscal conservatism
Fiscal conservatism is a political term used to describe a fiscal policy that advocates avoiding deficit spending. Fiscal conservatives often consider reduction of overall government spending and national debt as well as ensuring balanced budget of paramount importance...

 protested the proposal on the grounds that the money that would be spent on its construction would be better used to support other projects. They pointed to the lack of existing infrastructure in the region and said it was unlikely that enough electricity generated by the dam could be sold at a high enough price to pay for its construction.

In his 1966 analysis of the project's economic feasibility, Michael Brewer refuted the conclusions of the 1962 federal study, saying that the ability of the dam to pay for itself was "an exercise in speculation". He also wrote that even if the dam was built and cheap electricity made available, "Alaska did not possess a competitive advantage". He concluded by saying that the project was "not economically efficient". Because of arguments like these, the common belief among informed observers outside Alaska was that the project was designed to benefit Alaska alone, and thus could almost be considered "foreign aid." An editorial in The New York Times summed up non-Alaska opinions when it asked if the dam project was "the world's biggest boondoggle
Boondoggle (project)
A boondoggle is a project that is considered to waste time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy motivations.- Etymology :...



Owing to increasing public pressure, in June 1967, United States Secretary of the Interior
United States Secretary of the Interior
The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

 Stewart Udall
Stewart Udall
Stewart Lee Udall was an American politician. After serving three terms as a congressman from Arizona, he served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B...

 announced he was strongly opposed to the dam, citing economic and biological factors as well as the drastic impact on the area's native population. Though this effectively ended the project, planning continued to go ahead until the final Army Corps of Engineers report was released in 1971 and recommended the project "not be undertaken at this time". Alaska governor William Allen Egan
William Allen Egan
William Allen Egan was an American Democratic politician. He served as the first Governor of the State of Alaska from January 3, 1959 to 1966, and the fourth Governor from 1970 to 1974...

 protested the statement, saying the report was out of date due to population growth in Alaska and rising demand for electricity.

The report was duly reconsidered, but in 1978, the Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the project no longer was justified. The audited report was accepted by the U.S. Senate, and no further funding was allocated to study the issue. The final nail in the coffin came on December 1, 1978, when President Jimmy Carter authorized the creation of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Monument, which became the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in 1980. The refuge status eliminated any possibility of flooding the Yukon Flats, a process that would have been inevitable with the construction of the dam.

In summer 1985, the last remnants of the dam project were eliminated when the 8.96 million acres (36,300 km2) set aside for development of the dam were released by the Bureau of Land Management for other uses.


The controversy surrounding the Rampart Dam project illustrated the growing shift in the environmental movement during the 1960s. Rather than becoming focused singularly on solely preserving the natural beauty of a particular landscape, as had inspired the creation of the U.S. National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

 in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, naturalists and environmentalists began to consider the human cost of development as well. Though opposition to Rampart was founded primarily on economic and natural grounds, it consequences for the Alaska Native population in the region reflected later concerns about industrial development in more urban areas.

Among Alaska Natives, the Rampart Dam project encouraged organization and the creation of communications links between various like-minded communities and tribal groups. When the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
The Trans Alaska Pipeline System , includes the Trans Alaska Pipeline, 11 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world's largest pipeline systems...

 was proposed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Native organizations that had formed to oppose Rampart Dam were revived in opposition to the pipeline. Only after Native land claims were recognized in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, commonly abbreviated ANCSA, was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 23, 1971, the largest land claims settlement in United States history. ANCSA was intended to resolve the long-standing issues surrounding aboriginal land claims in...

did the pipeline progress.


The Corps of Engineers defined the construction season as the period in which average temperatures at the site were above the freezing point of water.


  • Cooke, A. "The Rampart Dam proposal for Yukon River". Polar Record, December 1964. pp. 277–280.
  • Leopold, A. and Leonard, Justin. "The Rampart Project". Natural History, January 1966. p. 12
  • Spurr, Stephen H. "Rampart Dam: A costly gamble". Audubon, May–June 1966. pp. 173–175



  • Ivan Bloch and Associates (Industrial Consultants). Background Facts on Rampart Canyon Project, Yukon River, Alaska. Portland, Oregon. October 1963.
  • Naske, Claus M. and Hunt, William R. The Politics of Hydroelectric Power in Alaska: Rampart and Devil Canyon – A case study. Fairbanks, Alaska. University of Alaska, January 1978.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.